Eight percent of Americans use an e-reader, according to new data from Harris Interactive. On top of that, the research firm's survey found that 12 percent of respondents who do not currently own an e-reader are likely to purchase one within the next six months.
The Harris Poll questioned 2,775 adults online between Aug. 9 and 16. The survey also found that 53 percent of people with e-readers read more books in the previous six months-a substantial jump from the 18 percent of people without e-readers.
"With eReader sales expected to continue to climb and as more devices now become available, it is inevitable that reading habits of Americans will also change," reads a note accompanying the results. "This early evidence is pointing to something good-people seem to be reading more if they have an eReader, which is something the publishing industry, which has been in decline over recent years, is sure to celebrate."
That survey comes as e-reader manufacturers are stepping up their marketing ahead of the holiday shopping season. Amazon.com, whose Kindle e-reader dominates the segment's mindshare (if not its market share), recently kicked off a new ad campaign showing off the device's versatility and price point. The Kindle will also appear in Best Buy stores starting this fall, where it will compete against Barnes & Noble's Nook and the Apple iPad.
The WiFi-only version of the Kindle retails for $139, while the next-generation version with 3G connectivity retails for $189. Amazon's recent tweaks to the device include a higher-contrast e-ink screen, longer battery life, Wikipedia access, support for password-protected PDFs and a lightweight body capable of being held in one hand.
Although Amazon, Barnes & Noble and smaller e-reader manufacturers have engaged in something of a summer price war, the iPad is seen as the looming threat to all. Analysts have previously suggested that the iPad's customer base now exceeds that of the Kindle, which in turn places more marketplace pressure on Amazon. Hence, Amazon's targeting the iPad in its latest ad, which features a bikini-clad woman extolling the virtues of the Kindle to a man who has trouble reading his tablet PC's screen in sunlight.
Despite that, analytics firm In-Stat predicts that e-reader shipments will grow from around 12 million units in 2010 to 35 million in 2014.
"Tablet PC shipments are taking off, fueled in particular by the Apple iPad introduction. Yet, there will still be a revenue opportunity for e-reader suppliers and OEMs, since tablet PCs and e-readers target different customers," Stephanie Ethier, an analyst with In-Stat, wrote in a Sept. 14 research note. "Standalone e-readers will address the needs of avid readers, to whom the reading experience is central. Tablets are better suited for consumers who prefer a stronger multimedia experience, and only light reading."